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(or: why Springfield smelled all the time)

Purpose and Location of Bondi's Island

Bondi's Island, located in the Connecticut River between Agawam and Springfield, Massachusetts, is a massive water treatment plant that handles the waste of a great part of Western Massachusetts. Bondi's Island is within two miles of downtown Springfield and most of the waterfront. Up until a few years ago, you could smell the fumes emanating from it from just about any point in the western third of the city.

The plant is more formerly known as the Springfield Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant.

History of Bondi's Island

Bondi's Island is named for one Luigi Bondi (a dubious honor), an Italian immigrant who came to Massachusetts around 1880. In 1889, he purchased the island (a rather sizable one) for $100. Its position has shifted somewhat since the time of its original purchase, suggesting that it was once near where the Memorial Bridge is today. Bondi used the island to grow peaches.

Fifty years after its original purchase, in 1939, the treatment plant was built and used to improve the quality of the water in the rivers flowing through Springfield, Chicopee, Agawam, Connecticut, and the Pioneer Valley. In 1960, all the sewage in the Springfield metropolitan area was directed to the plant.

The island grew through the 1960s and 1970s (and years of heavy environmental regulation) to be a total of seven plants, one primary and six secondary, including a landfill.

Recent History of Bondi's Island

Quite the paradise, eh? Well, the plant was effective for a long time. However, in 1990 the population of Springfield peaked around 125,000. Combined with the added population of the surrounding areas, the workload on the Bondi's Island plant became very heavy. Treatment methods began to break down.

The result? Stink.

Springfield became, during the early nineties, one of the worst-smelling cities in the country. Children going to school would hold their noses as they drove down Interstate 91 and keep them that way until they were at least a mile from the river. Buildings that weren't even close to the water had a persistent smell. A lot of people hung out indoors.

Mayor Robert Markel had big plans, at the same time, for a waterfront in Springfield to stimulate commerce (now manifested in the new Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame). As such, cleaning up the smell from the island became a top priority in 1994.

Engineers were called out from all corners of the community. Solutions were proposed, including a giant plastic dome which would cost billions of dollars and seal off the island. In the end, it was the University of Massachusetts Odor Task Force that dealt with the problem, calling in veteran civil engineer Michael Switzenbaum and several UMASS classes.

The Fix

The advice from the University was nothing terribly earthshaking: they eliminated several dated treatment methods (including Zimpro, a very obsolete technique) and replaced them with more modern chemical approaches to waste treatment.

Since then, the island no longer stinks. At least from a distance. Springfield has built its pretty new waterfront, and everybody is happy except the Mafia, who really had their eye on that giant plastic dome idea.

Bondi's Island is best seen driving up US Route 5, northbound through Agawam into West Springfield.

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